Slide show: Tribute to a life in hardware

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In 1974, Frieda was at the cash register after a remodel and grand opening of the Ellis Hardware store in downtown Seneca, Ill.

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In 1977, another grand opening for a new store. From left to right: Patti Osborne, David Ellis, Jenny Ellis, Frieda Ellis, John Ellis and Sandra Ellis.

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In 1997, Ellis Ace Hardware celebrated its 125th anniversary. Frieda received her “Golden Key" to the Village of Seneca, from the mayor Bill Steep at right. Flanking Frieda are John Ellis (left) and David Ellis.

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In 2001, Frieda received a Golden Hammer Award from the Midwest Hardware Association and Ace Hardware Corp. The award honored 50 years in the hardware industry.

Frieda D. Ellis, 95, the matriarch of Ellis Hardware of Seneca, Ill., died March 9. She was a pioneer, an original and a successful hardware store retailer.

“She spent over 60 years in the hardware business, on her own from 1953 to the 1960s,” said Michael Ellis, Frieda’s grandson. “Her story is inspiring and unique.”

Ellis Ace Hardware Rental & RadioShack, described as “Illinois’ oldest family owned hardware store” was founded in 1872. Frieda married into the Ellis family in 1944.

Her husband Norbert died in 1953. And with two small children, Frieda took over the store.

“Frieda was a pioneer in the business as she was the first woman to be the sole owner of the family hardware store,” wrote Michael Ellis. “Frieda wanted to keep the family business running for her children and family. She told stories of threading pipe by hand and scooping nails by the pound for customers. She had the joy of working alongside her sons for over 30 years and also her grandchildren while running the family business.”